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Ireland and abortion

The abortion referendum in Ireland

Pro-Choice comment on the result of the referendum on abortion held in Ireland in 6 March 2002, follows. For more discussion on the background to the referendum read Abortion in Ireland, with Audrey Simpson (fpaNI), legal consultant Julie F. Kay, and Dr Eileen Fegan and Rachel Rebouche (Queen's University Belfast Law School), and Abortion Law and Politics Today (Ellie Lee, Tony O'Brien and Audrey Simpson).

The Irish Family Planning Association deemed the result in the referendum, through which the Irish Government's proposals to amend the legislation on abortion were narrowly defeated, 'A Victory for Common Sense'. Its statement reads:

The Irish Family Planning Association has said that the rejection of the Government's referendum on abortion was a victory for common sense and it called for the immediate enactment of legislation to take account of the risk of suicide as a basis for legal abortion in Ireland.

"Despite the confusion, scare-mongering and deception which has characterised the Government's campaign for a yes vote, common sense has prevailed. Today's vote is a statement by the Irish people that they want to move forward on the issue of abortion," said Tony O'Brien, IFPA Chief Executive.

"The stories of the women at the centre of the abortion debate won-out today. The Deirdre De Barra's of Ireland garnered the sympathy and support of voters.

"It is our view that if the Irish people had been asked to approve legal abortion in limited circumstances, such as in cases of foetal abnormalities incompatible with life, rape or incest, they would have given their approval. The campaign for such legal abortions starts today.

"Meanwhile, the task of preventing crisis pregnancies must become a priority for Government and service providers. While the IFPA looks forward to working with the Crisis Pregnancy Agency, we need more than an agency if we are to see a genuine reduction in Irish abortions. Legislative and policy changes are required and the Government is the only body which can effect such change."

Related websites

British Pregnancy Advisory Service, which provides abortion care for many Irish women each year, made the following statement:

"BPAS sees almost 2,500 women who travel from Ireland each year. We pride ourselves on providing these women and all the women we see with a high standard of care. We cannot, however deny that it would be far better for Irish women if abortion was made available in Ireland.

Irish people should have the right to decide what happens in their country, but the legislation should reflect what Irish people really want. It is impossible to prevent abortion by making it illegal. Making it illegal just causes Irish women more anguish and anxiety. I find it difficult to believe that the result of the referendum will truly reflect the population's view on abortion because it was held in such confusing circumstances. It must be confusing if both pro-choice and anti-abortion groups are voting on the same side. We know many pro-choice colleagues abstained from voting simply because they did not feel there was an option they could vote for. Tragically, in the 21st century they are still debating, what is, for the majority of women worldwide, a basic healthcare need."

Ian H. Jones
Chief Executive

Notes for editors

BPAS is the UK's largest independent abortion provider. It provides abortion care for almost 50,000 women each year.

More information on BPAS is available at www.bpas.org

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